Arrivants: Leasho Johnson


Land of Big Hood and Water (2018)
Mural (paint and vinyl)
Variable dimensions

Leasho Johnson in St James, Jamaica, in 1984, and he is based in Kingston, Jamaica, and Chicago, Illinois, USA. He was educated at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (BFA Visual Communication, 2009) and is presently pursuing an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a founding member of the Dirty Crayons collective, which held local group exhibitions in 2012 and 2013, and he has also executed a number of “guerilla mural” interventions on the streets of Kingston, which are usually promptly removed. Johnson’s major exhibitions include We Have Met Before (2017) and Young Talent V (2010), both at the National Gallery of Jamaica; Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora (2016) at the Royal West Academy, Bristol, U.K.; and the National Gallery of Jamaica’s Biennials since 2010. His residencies have included Caribbean Linked III at Atelier 89, Aruba, in 2015, a residency at at Bluecoat, Liverpool, UK, in 2016, and he was awarded a Davidoff Art Initiative residency at Residency Unlimited in New York City in 2016.


Artist’s Statement

Land of Big Hood and Water stirs up questions around identity and “Caribbeaness,” We are a region born out of industry (the supply and demand of sugar to Europe), our bodies no more or less than that of beasts of burden. I wanted to investigate black stereotypes and how that is perpetuated through tourism as an extension of that industry, where the black Caribbean body is again available for foreign consumption. I wanted to show how much emerges through sexuality and violence as social norms, as an after-effect of colonialism. The title parodies Jamaica’s informal motto, “Land of Wood and Water” given to us by our Taino forefathers, as the land was deemed abundant for its natural resources. “Hood” is the colloquial Jamaican word for “large male genitalia”; or from an American standpoint, a slum or ghetto. Originally mounted as a street intervention on Hope Road, an upscale part of Kingston, Jamaica, my usual characters’ bodies became caricatures of islands being beside each other, like the islands on the map of the Caribbean. The bodies in the water also reference bodies thrown overboard from ships during the Middle Passage and their poses echo certain types of choreography from dancehall culture.

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